A Texas hunting club has cancelled plans to auction off a chance to kill an African elephant, the club's executive director said Saturday.

Ben Carter of the Dallas Safari Club told The Associated Press that the donor of the hunt withdrew his donation.

The African elephant is the Earth's largest land animal. The World Wildlife Fund, the world's leading conservation group, regards it as "vulnerable," a step below "endangered" and defined as "facing a high risk of extinction in the wild."

The Dallas Safari Club faced international criticism last year for auctioning a permit to shoot an endangered black rhino. That hunt has been postponed until the winner receives permission to import the carcass from Namibia.

This year's auction prizes still include a 14-day trophy hunt in Mozambique for an adult male leopard.

Animal welfare activists protest

Animal welfare activists demonstrated across the street from the Dallas hotel where the club's convention was taking place.

'Elephants, lions and leopards are not listed as endangered species ... and, in fact, are overpopulated in certain areas of Africa.' - Ben Carter, Dallas Safari Club

Angela Antonisse-Oxley, of the Dallas-based Black Rhino Project, said trophy hunts aggravate the serious problem of big game poaching in Africa.

"A bullet is not going to save them," she said.

In an earlier statement, Carter said that "elephants, lions and leopards are not listed as endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and, in fact, are overpopulated in certain areas of Africa."

"These species are commonly hunted where legal, sustainable and where populations need to be managed," the statement said.